In this post we discuss a potential strategy for not only improving your public speaking skills, but a possible method of developing, encouraging and improving participation in your public speaking group. This is through the relatively recent development of a system known as “Gamification”.
What is Gamification?
Gamification is the process of taking something that already exists – a sports or fitness club, an online community, a public speaking group – and integrating game mechanics into it to motivate participation, engagement, skill development and loyalty. Gamification takes the data-driven techniques that game designers use to engage players, and applies them to non-game experiences to motivate actions that add value to the individuals and/ or group involved.
Gamification is the craft of deriving all the fun and addicting elements found in games and applying them to real-world or productive activities. Some practitioners have called this “Human-Focused Design” as opposed to the “Function-Focused Design.” It’s a design process that optimizes for the human in the system, as opposed to pure efficiency of the system.
Most systems are “function-focused” designed to get the job done quickly. This is like a factory that assumes that the workers employed WILL do their jobs. However, Human-Focused Design remembers that people in the system have feelings, insecurities, and reasons why they want or do not want to do things, and therefore optimises for their feelings, motivations, and engagement and motivation to develop their skills.
The reason we call it gamification is because the gaming industry was the first to master human-focused design. Games have no other purpose than to please the human inside. There are “objectives” in the games, such as killing the dragon or saving the princess, but those are all excuses to simply keep the player happily entertained inside. Since games have spent decades learning how to master motivation and engagement, we are now learning from games, and that is it is called Gamification.
Games have the amazing ability to keep people engaged for a long time, build relationships and trust between people, and develop their creative potentials.
Unfortunately, most games these days are simply focused on escapism – wasting your life away on something that doesn’t improve your own life nor the life of others (besides the game makers of course).
Imagine if there was a truly addicting game, where the more time you spent on it, the more productive you would be. You would be playing as much as possible, your knowledge and skills would be improving, you would be improving your career prospects, and enjoying yourself all at the same time. This is the goal of Gamification. And while it may sound grand, there is certainly huge potential for this strategy.
So can Gamification really be used to improve your public speaking? It certainly can.
All it takes is a system in place where participants in your public speaking group will take the time to compete with one another, “level up” their public speaking, and dedicate time to ensure your group continues to work together to achieve your common goal.
So what is this system? You’ll need some key items to implement in order to make this a reality so read on.
Motivation to Participate
First and foremost is the motivation to participate. Why would someone want to participate in the program? What will they get out of the experience or what benefit will there be by participating?
Motivation can be as simple as saying “want to get over your fear of public speaking? I can help you do this in X weeks” (where X is a set period of time). Motivation can also come in the form of adding a social element while getting over your fear of public speaking; “want to get over your fear of public speaking? Let’s get together with a group of like minded people once a week to work together and get over our fear”.
An important aspect of motivation is to really reiterate the key factor that participants get to “level up” their public speaking skill.
Participation Recording System
The first item you’ll want to record is who and how much time your participants are spending on the development of their public speaking skills.
This is obviously critical to firstly, understand the level of participation (and therefore enjoyment/ buy I’n) of your group but also as a way of rewarding effort and contribution.
Key Checkpoints to Reach
Ever felt that sense of achievement when you reach that check point in Mario Cart? Well let’s apply that to our public speaking as well.
We’ll need to establish some clear goals or checkpoints for participants to work towards. The checkpoints need to be achievable however progressing in difficulty so that participants feel challenged throughout the program. The checkpoints will generally define the length of time in which the program will run for as well.
Examples of checkpoints are as follows:
- Number of speeches performed within a set period
- Diversity in types of speech performed over a set period
- Frequency of participation in impromptu speaking events
- Frequency of providing constructive feedback to fellow participants
Note that none of the checkpoints are skill based. This is important in order to allow for participants of all skill levels to take part and benefit from the experience. It is also largely unnecessary.
If you prefer checkpoints can also be called “achievements”.
An effective rewards system needs to be in place for a true Gamification system to be established. For each achievement or checkpoint reached a reward must be given.
Rewards don’t necessarily need to have a monetary value, and many rewards systems within Gamified programs don’t have monetary value. Some examples of non-monetary rewards are below:
- Certificates of achievement
- Inclusion on online or physical lists of participants who reach these checkpoints
Monetary rewards can be many and varied and will be largely dependant on the cost of participation, desired profit (if any), and demographic of participants. Monetary rewards can even be money if desired however this wouldn’t be recommended.
Monetary rewards should be items such as vouchers (travel vouchers, gift cards etc.) or commonly desired items such as electronics (iPads, televisions, game consoles) or consumables such as wine or spirits. The demographic of your group will give an indication of what rewards will be desirable.
Naturally the rewards are to be designed and promoted in order to drive participation and excitement for the public speaking program.
Skill Ladder or “Levelling Up” System
Much like Martial Arts or levelling up your character in a computer game, the participants need to feel like they are achieving recognition and status as they reach checkpoints and achieve certain rewards. The system needs to make participants feel as if they are “levelling up” in the game of public speaking.
This levelling up system can simply be grades, achieving certain level badges, differing titles or even rungs of a ladder. The ranking system can be represented by a physical item (belt, broach, badge, certificate etc.) or it can be listed on a webpage or other visual medium. It is entirely up to you in which form you record each participants rank or level.
With each achievement or checkpoint reached, a set number of points should be awarded to participants. Points can also be awarded for other areas of participation, such as contributing to public speaking sessions through time keeping of speeches or taking up other areas of responsibility (minute taking, taking a leading role for the evening etc.).
Achievements and checkpoints can also be assigned for earning a set number of points (i.e. earn <insert rank title here> for earning 1000 points!). This way, participants will also be encouraged to do these extra curricular activities in order to earn their points.
While not really required for every Gamified system, a time limit on achieving certain checkpoints or completing the entire program may be worthwhile. This will encourage regular participation and will allow for schedules to be more readily drafted. A time limit also has the ability to add a sense of urgency to your program which can be very important.
To enhance the sense of urgency, regular reminders during public speaking sessions and via social media and/ or email of the time remaining to reach a checkpoint or until the end of the program will ensure participants stay motivated and work hard to get to the next rung on the ladder.
Social Responsibility – an Opportunity for Greater Engagement
A final aspect that you may want to include in your program is the potential for participants to contribute to a social enterprise through their participation in your public speaking group.
This contribution can be to any charitable or non-profit enterprise of your choosing. It can be an educational institution providing education to the disadvantaged, it can be health related or it can be an environmental enterprise. It’s entirely up to you. You may also choose to match the theme of your public speaking group to the social enterprise that you support.
The way you contribute can also be of your choosing. You may decide to contribute a percentage of attendance fees towards your charity or non-profit group. I would recommend however, that you be a little more inventive as to how to contribute to your social enterprise. Consider donating a set amount of money for every achievement or checkpoint reached or alternatively, allow participants to cash in points earned towards a donation (for example, 5 points earns a $1 donation). This way, participants can easily see how much they have personally contributed to your social enterprise and will have a greater sense of achievement and ownership as they work through their public speaking program.
Naturally, you’ll need to cost in the donation amount into your membership fees to ensure this will not impact on your profit margins or running costs too significantly.
What you will learn is that Gamification allows for huge amounts of creativity to be applied on your part which is partly what makes the system all the more exciting. The system can literally be designed to perfectly match your demographic and your personal taste. You’ll also notice, quickly quickly I imagine, that your participants will also show you highly creative ways of participating in your public speaking group. They’ll more than likely also highlight areas that you can improve on in the future to make the group even more fun, interactive, and exciting.
There are common elements in many existing systems, including Toastmasters. However, through Gamification, you’ll find that you can add a much greater level of excitement, creativity and gain greater buy in from your members. A nice addition is the potential to add some social responsibility to your public speaking group by encouraging donations to worthy causes. Not only does this give a sense of reward to your members but is also a nice marketing tool for bringing new members to participate in your group.
Overall, there is little reason to not try to Gamify your public speaking group. It is, by and large, a win-win addition to any group.
I haven’t provided you with a complete system here today however what you now have is an outline to get started making your own. If you are interested in a template that you can use to create your own public speaking program please contact me via my contact page or leave a comment below and I will create this for you.
Want to learn more about public speaking? Take a look at my other blog posts such as Lessons in Public Speaking from Game of Thrones or Using Virtual Reality to Cure Your Fear of Public Speaking.